Friday, December 5, 2014

Checking in on math instruction

By request, a thread for parents to talk about math instruction, especially at the elementary level. How are your kids doing in math? How is the pacing? Are some classes having trouble with the curriculum, either finding it inappropriate for the age, awkward, or that too many students are behind while others are ready to keep going? Thoughts on what parents can do to improve the math instruction?


Anonymous said...

Math instruction is excellent, if the goal was to beat all interest in math out of my daughter by doing linear equations since the start of the school year, it has worked wonderfully. We do math every evening with her, mostly because she is rebeling against the classwork... wait wasn't that what APP was supposed to address? All the boredom?

Anonymous said...

So general comments about math without grade level and location are pretty useless, no? If we're going to comment, let's be specific.

My Lincoln 5th grader is absurdly HAPPY with math. But the kid loves math, always has, and has been identified via pre unit assessments as basically blowing my mind, so kid gets to do some wacky stuff during math time - this is a kid who has always been interested, never bored, with math - even when getting it all right, and just sitting there, kid was happy. So that's Lincoln 5th grade. It seems to be going well. I think it's hard enough for most kids and there is differentiation for the top.

Lincoln 3rd grade -

Wider range of exposure previously and wider range of maturity at age 8 leading to very wide range of performance, maybe? - some kids struggling and some bored, but they're doing 'walk to math' by re-grouping 3 classes. Of course there are kids in top class who are bored - that's life (there is no top end to this group) ...

The lower group is slowing down a little b/c doing 5th grade math for the kids seems more to be a developmental issue than an ability issue - I can say my 3rd grade kid gets all of it, but doesn't have the attention to do the whole 5th grade work. Just can't focus/do a 4-5 page test with that many problems at that level, but that shouldn't me kid's not in APP - just that kid is 8 yrs old, big surprise.

We must all remember when we have these debates about "who belongs in APP math" that NOT EVERYONE CAN DO THE TOP LEVEL - even when everyone is APP-qualified, obviously they will spread out. The top can be soooo far along the top that they are of course bored, and the bottom may appear to some in APP to "not belong" - but of course, the appropriate comparison is NOT the top of APP, but the gen ed population.

Discussion about math in APP often devolves in (1) my kid is bored; and (2) the other kid isn't whatever-enough for this math.

That is a misunderstanding of distribution of ability and who the comparison is.

Having 2 APP-qualified kids, one at the far top and one in the norm for APP, has helped me understand this.

GHS bound parent said...

I agree with every word above about mixed history with more than 1 qualified APP student.

Anonymous said...

My fifth grader at Lincoln is doing just fine in math this year and is enjoying it more than last year. My child has always been more of a middle of the pack student, so not bored and not struggling which I imagine is the bulk of the kids. Some units have been more challenging and some have been a breeze. When I compare this curriculum to the CMP curriculum that my other child did when in 5th grade at Lowell, this year's math seems to make much more sense to my child. So glad that we're not doing CMP anymore in 4th and 5th grades in APP! The pacing this year seems fine, enough time for instruction of new concepts, review, prep for final test, and test re-takes for those who need it. There seems to be extra support for students who need a bit more help grasping the concepts. All around, things are chugging right along in math from our corner of the world.

Northend mom

Anonymous said...

Overall I am much more pleased with this curriculum than past ones. I do wish they would let the upper groups in 3rd grade move faster or do more different stuff, because it is just arithmetic, and if you have it, you have it. It seems like most of the kids in the top group are bored, not just some, because of the nature of the topics. But I do agree not every kid who belongs in APP/HCC has to be in that top group! They can have different strengths.

4th and 5th grade math seems to allow for more differentiation with the nature of more abstract topics. My 5th grader is also happy, and I'm looking forward to my 3rd grader getting to do the upper grade stuff next year!

Shannon said...

My 7 year old second grader is new to APP and hasn't had a lot of math (none at home and not much acceleration at school) so we expected a bit of a catch-up. He is in the regular math group and I find it just right. He is learning a lot of new stuff (times tables, long multiplication, and now division) in just a few weeks. He is in just the right place with getting new info and doing it although he feels frustrated with the homework. That is because he hasn't had time to master the times tables before trying to do more complex arithmetic. This makes it slow and error-prone. We are doing the daily Xtra Math app and he will get there in a few weeks. No complaints from me.

Anonymous said...

It's been interesting and even exciting for our new 3rd grader to jump two years and use unfamiliar tools from a new curriculum -- e.g., bar models. Coming in at the 5th grade level with these was initially frustrating but I was extremely impressed with the way our teacher (and probably the third grade team generally) handled the instruction -- while keeping anxiety(from parents and students) to a minimum.

Now that we are getting used to the MiF curriculum, though, how do people think the transition will go for rising 4th graders going from 5th grade MiF to the middle school curriculum? (Is that CMP at Lincoln?)

Anonymous said...

--in the comment above, Rising third graders (i.e., current third graders moving to fourth next year) is what I meant!

Anonymous said...

It's not CMP. Lincoln has a waiver- not sure what TM does. We are using Glencoe, which I think meshes much better with MiF than CMP does. My current 5th grader started with it in 4th grade, and I like it much better than what my younger child was using before (MyMath, supposedly the primary grade version, but I found it pretty poor, especially for advanced kids).

Anonymous said...

It is CMP though in Middle School (8th grade math) and Discovering Algebra. No waivers for HIMS or JAMS. It's not great. Thankfully, the kid's Algebra teacher ditched the textbook for a while though I hear she'll go back to it for some other sections. It's very graphing calculator heavy (lame and really unnecessary for Algebra - kid should be able to plot a line without having the calculator do it) and very text heavy. Really hoping they get new curriculum to align with MIF for middle school and above.

Anonymous said...

Re: middle school math, I'd recommend homeschooling if it's an option for you. You can do independent study for a single class, taking an extra elective during what would be math period, or perhaps getting a late start or early release. It's a bit of a hassle, yes, but your kid will likely develop a much stronger math foundation to take into high school.

Anonymous said...

For those that homeschooled math in middle school, did you have any issues with math placement in high school? Did they place your child appropriately based on the homeschooled coursework?

Anonymous said...

The teachers are lovely, and the text book (Glenco) is okay BUT the grade level expectations are mind-numbingly low and the pace is WAAAAAY too slow.

It's suppose to be a gifted program. Suppose to have only those at the 95th percentile and above for math achievement, it is suppose to eliminate the dulling repetition because gifted learners, at the 98th percentile and higher for cognition, learn really, really fast.

Alas, it is none of those things. But, it is not the teachers or administrators or the textbooks 'fault'. It is the District that rations rigor. (not advanced learning -- the Super and his cabinet). God forbid your kid actually gets a chance to learn something...

But we really do like all the teachers and administration and recognize how hard they work and how they persevere despite the craziness of the system.

And ANYTHING is better than CMP.

Anonymous said...

The independent study math option does get a bit trickier now that they are getting rid of the EOCs for middle schoolers, but I'm sure there's a way to get access to the proper courses. You'd probably need to consult with the homeschool office folks re: what's required. Legally these kids should have the same access as those f/t homeschooled, as well as those transferring from other schools. For my current middle schooler doing independent math, I'm keeping records/transcripts of his work, and will be sending results to the school registrar for his file.


Anonymous said...

The Anon poster above (pls use name) was incorrect in saying this:

"It's suppose to be a gifted program. Suppose to have only those at the 95th percentile and above for math achievement, it is suppose to eliminate the dulling repetition because gifted learners, at the 98th percentile and higher for cognition, learn really, really fast. "

Math is NOT part of HCC/APP. By middle school, HCC/APP is only LA/SS and Science.

We homeschooled Alg 1, and I would not have it any other way. We did it at HIMS to avoid a problem teacher and a problem curriculum. It's been two years now, and our kid still has a good understanding of what we taught them at home. For those who can do it, I think it is well worthwhile.


Anonymous said...

According to a letter from the district I received today my 5th grader would be slated for Algebra next year as a 6th grader. He is doing Spectrum this year so this seems like a really big jump. Can anyone share with me what classes he would then take in High school? Wondering if there is something for all 4 years. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

Qualifying for Algebra in 6th doesn't necessarily mean your child should enroll in Algebra just yet. I would only do it if your child really wants that level of acceleration (it means taking Calculus level math as a sophomore in high school) and you have filled in any topics or content that would be missed by moving directly into Algebra.

Look at the 7th and 8th grade math standards and see what concepts would need to be covered. There is some overlap between 8th grade standards and Algebra.

High school math options depend on your high school, and whether you are choosing an AP or IB pathway.

A possible sequence is:
9th - Pre-Calculus
10th - AP Calculus AB
11th - AP Calculus BC
12th - AP Statistics

Regarding @figgy's comment, the earlier post was referencing elementary math, which still follows a cohort model. The district is only offering acceleration once students enter middle school, but it didn't use to be that way. There used to be a 6HH math class that was part of the APP pathway. The district had a document specifically outlining the APP math pathway and classes were modified for accelerated students.

another anon

Anonymous said...

Wait -- some 5th grader was already notified they are qualified to take algebra?

That has to be wrong: to be quailed, the student must hit two benchmarks: 525 MSP math 4th grade AND 250 MAP math 5th grade --- I don't believe the math MAP for 5th grade has occurred yet anywhere...

Please, clarification??


Anonymous said...

Oh wait -- maybe you got notice for algebra already because your student while in 4th grade already hit that 250 MAP math score? So the district didn't have 'to wait' to see if your child would hit it in 5th grade? That would make sense (my child got 243 math map in 4th grade...)

Please do clarify.


Anonymous said...


Please can you elaborate more about what drove your homeschooling choice?

Did the district NOT put your child into Algebra 1 for 6th grade when you KNEW your kid was ready -- and in fact would be bored by "math 8"?

If you do homeschool math in that circumstance, when you 'show up for math' in the 7th grade, can you roll into geometry? Or does the district then make you prove your student has mastered math 8 and algebra 1? If EOC exams are gone, how can you prove this? And why does the District let everyone opt up 1 year in math --- but not if that 1 year up is to "math 9", I.e. algebra?

Any and all advice form 'partial' math homeschoolers or full time homeschoolers is appreciated.

Math curious

Anonymous said...


My child was part of the first year of using MAP to decide if your child was "ready" for Alg 1. Using unrelated math tests to check for math readiness is so dumb, but I digress. My kid never did their best on the MAP because it had been meaningless by that point and the district told us after the test was taken that it was now "high stakes." On the Spring Map of that year my kid increased their score by 30 because I told them to care this time. My kid's 5th grade APP teacher thought that my kid would have no problem with Alg 1 but she was not listened to. Goodness knows that a teacher doesn't know as much as a MAP test about a kid.

I don't know what will happen know with getting into Geometry. My kid passed the Alg EOC with no problem. You will have to talk to the AL office because they set this rule.

Kids need to be removed from campus during the homeschool period which is why many try to get it first or last. If you know by this spring that you are for sure going to homeschool, I would tell the middle school registrar so that they can set the schedule early to make sure that this can happen.

It's easy to homeschool. All you need to do is send in a form that is called something like Intent to Homeschool. One parent I know did homeschooling using another WA State school district and was able to move the funding for that class from Seattle to this other district. This also guaranteed that the class ended up on the transcript. I think getting this done is more difficult and shouldn't be done at JS Center because they will say no.


Anonymous said...

When part time homeschooling in middle school:

As far as rules around future math placement, homeschoolers (full or part time) need to be treated as private schooled students. If the district places private schooled students based on passage of a course taken previously, then they need to place homeschoolers similarly. Schools liked to see a passing score on the EOC, but they couldn't technically require passing the EOC as part of placement since it's not a test taken by private schooled students.

Once re-enrolled in math at school, they can reassign students to a lower level class if the student doesn't perform well and they think the student has been misplaced. I haven't heard of this happening, because you are talking about students that are generally high performing, but you should understand it's a possibility.

As far as it being easy to homeschool, I'd say filing the paperwork is easy. You may or may not be able to negotiate a schedule that allows for an early release or late start, and you need to arrange for transportation each day. If your child can walk to school or take the Metro, it's a little less of a hassle.

Math is now considered independent of APP/HCC status, so although the AL office was involved in setting the math placement matrix (which will change now that students are taking the SBAC), you need to talk with your child's school about re-enrolling after homeschooling.

Anonymous said...

It is only in the past couple of years that 6th graders have been allowed, once again, to accelerate to Algebra in 6th grade. When Washington APP split, HIMS was not allowing 6th graders to take Algebra, despite promises this would be allowed post-split. Some 6th grade students managed to enroll in Algebra, but were then removed.

After years of parents pleading with the district, they formally allowed it again and created a cut-off based on MAP scores. Parents weren't informed of this new rule until after students had taken the MAP test, as @figgy explains. The math placement guidelines were adjusted to include 4th grade MSP scores, then an algebra readiness test was added.

Reasons for homeschooling vary - some resorted to part-time homeschooling to accelerate to Algebra, and some were trying to avoid a year of CMP. Homeschooling for math allows you to choose a more rigorous coverage of topics. The district texts for middle school and high school math are not geared toward advanced students. You may or may not get a teacher that supplements to provide additional challenge or coverage of topics.

As far as a transcript, private schools will accept a homemade transcript with course description, topics covered, and grade.

Anonymous said...

My 7th grade DD is taking an AOPS course (Art of Problem Solving). It's rigorous and she is learning a ton. She's taking Algebra 2, which is not the same as SPS Algebra's the second part of introduction to Algebra. She sailed through Algebra last year and easily passed the EOC. But why rush to Geometry? We decided the Alg 2 would give her a better foundation to take AOPS's Geometry next year, which I've heard is the toughest of their classes and expects a solid grounding in Algebra. For the first time she was really having to work hard to understand and do the problems. But she is learning so much, and has learned to take notes from her textbook and the live on-line lecture, and to lighten up a bit about not getting every point on assignments, but to focus on LEARNING as much as she can. It's been absolutely great. She told me she learned more in the first 3 weeks than she learned all last year in Algebra, and she had a good teacher last year. They just didn't move anywhere near as fast, as there was quite a mix of ability in that class. Her Alg 2 ends in January and I think she's decided to take a 3 month AOPS coding class. She likes the schedule b/c she can sleep in as she doesn't have a first period.


Anonymous said...

To anonymous 11:35 on the Dec 19th
Yes, it was a fall MAP score given this year that my child did over the 250. Since the letter said the highest of 5th grade scores would be used I assumed his fall score would then qualify him. This was at VR Elem.

Thanks also to another anon for a possible sequence. Very helpful. Does anyone know if Roosevelt would offer that sequence up through AP Statistics? Does Eckstein offer enough math for a student starting Algebra in 6th grade?

Anonymous said...

According to the catalog Roosevelt does offer that sequence, but I don't know if they have restrictions on which grade levels can take them.

One note re: that sequence. While math-advanced kids often take AP Stats in their senior year, I think that's more a function of what's offered than what's necessarily desired. Kids who want to keep moving forward in math may prefer to move on to multivariable calculus after AP Calc BC instead, skipping stats. That means finding an online or college course, but may be more satisfying to some. It also avoids the challenges that come with skipping an intro Calc course in college (based on AP credit), but finding you don't remember much since you've had a year "off."

Anonymous said...

Newbie -
I'm not sure if your child could take Algebra I as a 6th grader at Eckstein. I know that he/she could do so at Jane Addams. One big difference between the two schools is that the principal at Jane Addams is committed to keeping same-grade kids learning together whenever possible, whereas the Eckstein principal is not. Therefore, at Jane Addams, if your 6th grader is taking Algebra I, he/she will be in an Algebra I class with other 6th graders (currently there is a full class of 6th graders taking Algebra I at Jane Addams). Similarly, if you go with 8th grade math in 6th grade (instead of the jump to Algebra), your 6th grader will be in an 8th grade math class with all 6th graders.

At Eckstein, 6th graders taking 8th grade math are in a class with mostly 7th and 8th graders. The leadership at Eckstein makes no effort to keep same-grade kids together. I'm sure it's a scheduling nightmare, but in my opinion it's worth it to keep same-grade kids together if possible.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

My kids & many of their friends have started Alg 1 in 6th grade at Eckstein & followed that math track through Roosevelt. It works fine. Most of them take the AP stat class, some do running start. Some do both AP stat at RHS & college math classes at North Seattle or UW. The AP calc series is not equivalent to a college class, even though students often get credit or placement. Some kids repeat it in college others take the placement. A UW TA I spoke with, who did this pathway, estimated that UW calc 126 was 25% new material that was not covered in AP Calc BC & went more indepth on 30% of material. So you could go either way if you are a strong math student. Though UW prof told me that not repeating calc was a big stumbling block (not high enough grade on the curve) for many students & affected their acceptance into certain majors. Also UW doesn’t allow graphing calculators so if your student depends on one to solve problems, that could be a sign they need to repeat. I heard similar from students at other universities.

If you are concerned about being in class with different age students absolutely do not go to Roosevelt. Very few classes are age specific. I think only history is age specific for all 4 years. Most classes are not age specific even for freshmen. Also avoid running start of course. IBx pathway also has varied age classes though less than Roosevelt. Garfield could be better that way.

Finally these things change as staff & policy changes through the years.

-been there

Anonymous said...

What is the District's "Algebra Readiness Test'?

It is like a standard ART, which is a bunch of questions about all kinds of math (a smattering of geometry, stats, basic arithmetic, expressions, etc)? Sample ARTs can be found on the internet, for example.

Or, is it a mini lesson on Algebra, followed by a test on the Algebra they were just taught? So, it is testing the students ability to quickly learn and apply a new mathematical concept that they have never been exposed to before. That is what I heard the District does... this mini-lesson/test thing... but I am wondering how that would even work.

Please, what is this District's ART???


Anonymous said...

High school students advanced in math would be wise to look for challenging online options, too. My student took the Honors Calculus series (A, B and C) through Stanford's EPGY program, and part of a Multivariable Calculus class through the Johns Hopkins CTY program. It sounds like these are much more rigorous than what the local high schools offer. He was able to go straight into UW's Math 126 with no problems at all. The class was 100% review and he aced it. While I've heard similar things to what "been there" noted--that AP credits often don't translate into actual readiness for the next level--it IS possible to find courses that will in fact prepare you well for higher level college work, if that's what a student wants to do.